I love a quiet, early morning start to my time at school. While our school building doesn’t open until 7:00, I’m usually there at 6:35 to set-up our outdoor space. The timing works so that I’m done the set-up by the time that my pass card unlocks the front doors. This week though, it was during the early morning set-up that I began to think about Self-Reg.
Over the years, my teaching partner, Paula, and I have explored the use of many different materials outside. Tires are one of our favourites! They can be used in so many different ways, and just as I think that we’ve figured out all of them, we uncover or learn about a new use.
Since our kindergarten pen space is a shared one, usually it looks differently by the end of the day than it does at the beginning. I’ve tried to reframe these changes recently by considering the value of a blank canvas for a new set-up. For me, the set-up always starts with the tires. After moving around seven tires the other morning, I posted this image.
I began to realize that rolling the tires, picking the tires up and carrying them, and occasionally even throwing the tires — gently of course — are actually all calming options for me. One morning, due to a number of different factors, I went to school on edge. By the time that I finished this outdoor classroom set-up, I was feeling so much better!
I share this story because thinking about Self-Reg and how it connects to setting up our outdoor space, also made me think about how it connects to other areas of my school experience.
Going to school early usually affords me the luxury of having about 20 minutes after setting up and before some morning discussions with our classroom team to unwind. I sip my coffee, scroll through Twitter, and think through the day in my head: contemplating any questions that I might want to ask during our meeting time. One day this week, some classroom rearrangement had me scrambling to get everything done before my 8:55 duty. As I was heading out to the gate, I kept saying to myself, “Breathe. Smile.”
That’s when I began to chat with the kindergarten students that I have morning duty with each day. Before long, I saw another child from a different class. I always see her walking around to the back of the school with her mom. This student wasn’t in our class last year, but I often had duty in her classroom, so I got to know her well. With the Spring lockdown, I didn’t see or connect with her again before we returned to school. This child has a very eclectic style, and I love her confidence and excitement over all of her amazing accessories. Every day, we have a short, socially distanced conversation at the gate about her accessories. Then I tell her to have a “great day,” and often wish mom a “great day” again as she comes back around the school. On this particular day, the mom came back to the gate after dropping off her daughter. She said to me, “Thank you so much for your conversation with [Name]! She loves the attention that you give her every morning, and often talks about stopping to speak with you each day.” Our conversation is less than two minutes usually, but mom reminded me of the value in these little connections. Self-Reg starts with relationships, and I have to wonder if these quick discussions can help build these relationships. While I was feeling the stress walking out to my duty on this particular morning, the talking time with kids, and later, the talking time with this mother, made me feel so much better. Again, I was reminded of Self-Reg, and how connections made the difference for me.
With COVID protocols, I find myself socializing less with other staff members at school. I can go weeks completely unaware of who’s in the building and who isn’t. We have a number of new teachers at our school, and while I’ve seen a few of them on my way through the office or to the staff washroom, I don’t even know their names. This has never happened to me before, and it feels really strange to have this disconnect. But since I have close contact with my parents, including my mom who’s elderly, I’m really trying to be vigilant with limiting connections with others, especially when they are not wearing masks. No eating in the staffroom for me this year. I understand the need for all of these restrictions — and more — but my conversation the other morning with some kindergarten kids and a mother made me realize that these social connections can also be very self-regulating for me. I’m beginning to wonder if this is why I often spend at least part of one nutrition break sitting down and talking with one or two students (in our classroom) for an extended period of time. During the school day, I find myself moving more frequently between kids, but the extra time at lunch gives me that extra connection time — with those in our class bubble — to have longer conversations. I never considered the Self-Reg benefits of this social time before, but in the past few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about it.
The more that I learn about Self-Reg, the more that I find myself living it. As I start to see my life through a Self-Reg lens, I begin to wonder more about the choices I make and those that I don’t. What are your Self-Reg stories? What impact does considering Self-Reg have on your life at school and/or at home? I wonder what Self-Reg reflections next week will bring.
Previously our Portal Plus Moderator and now our Co-Reg Community Facilitator, Aviva Dunsiger has been an active Self-Reg blogger for a number of years. She has taught everything from Kindergarten to Grade 6 and enjoys blogging about her teaching and learning experiences. She blogs professionally on her blog, Living Avivaloca.